An estimated 500 delegates, representing each of the UN’s 193 member states, spent three days in Oxford taking part in discussions of current issues in committees modelled on the real United Nations.
Undergraduate and postgraduate students from across the globe were assigned nations to represent, and were required to take part in mock committees such as the Security Council, the G20 and the World Health Organisation.
Committees ranged from 15 to 50 delegates and were required to put forward working papers and draft resolutions that could be debated and amended. There were up to ten representatives for each country and motions discussed in select committees were subsequently discussed at the General Committee where they had to pass with a two-thirds majority.
The Model UN programme is personally endorsed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who wrote to participants: “You are part of the largest generation of young people our world has ever known…many are stuck in low-wage, dead-end work, despite having college degrees.
“We must work together to help young people make the most of their energies, ideas and leadership potential.”
Emphasising how OxIMUN could help achieve this he said: “By participating in the Model United Nations, you will sharpen your negotiating skills and gain insights into what it takes to achieve consensus and progress.”
OxIMUN Secretary General Imran Bhaluani, a PPE finalist at Christ Church, was responsible for the logistics of the whole event. He explained the educational importance of the initiative, saying: “[Model UN is] important because it gives insight into how the UN works and how difficult it is to find solutions when people have such different opinions.
“I was involved in a minor role before [this year] and it was a really good experience. So I thought, ‘I’d better run this thing’.
“During long hours of committee discussions, delegates are required to take to heart the interests of their assigned nation, while balancing this with the desire for consensus.”
Some take this attachment to their adopted nation rather seriously, and on arriving late to UNESCO, the delegate for Spain explained that she was “getting into character”.
In the following discussion about bioethics, the delegate for Iraq went further, calling human cloning “a heinous and blasphemous act condemned by Allah.”
Proceedings were tightly regulated during the day, with vast amounts of jargon dictating how each minute is spent. Speeches and debates were timed on a large screen, with breaks subjected to the same tight constraints.
During one such break, or ‘unmoderated caucus’, José Bernado-Iglesias of Spain explained discussions in the G20 had focused on “food security by increasing agricultural productivity.”
He said: “I am representing the EU so I cannot vote on the main resolution. The main issue is trying to avoid market speculation in order to stop increasing food prices in poor countries.”
Elsewhere, discussion at the Arab League centred on how the region could develop other business sectors in order to avoid reliance on oil, leading the delegate for Kuwait to suggest that they should “focus on our unique Arab advantage in making glass” on that grounds that “we have a lot of sand.”
But 500 young people didn’t jet across the globe just to discuss Canada’s coastal waters and other such issues. OxIMUN laid on assorted social events during the week. including club nights at Camera and Varsity and a champagne reception at the Oxford Town Hall.
“[Model UN] gives people from different countries, ranging from Venezuela to India, the chance to enjoy Oxford for three days,” Bhaluani explained.